Thomas Fire Now Largest Fire in California State History

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Firefighters have been battling the flames for almost three weeks in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties and are expected to continue working around the clock until January 7, fire officials said.

The firefighters at the Thomas fire base camp had a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus on Christmas Eve morning, with the Ventura County Fire Department sharing a group picture.

One fatality directly related to the fire has been reported, a firefighter who succumbed to burns and smoke inhalation in the line of duty on December 14 in Ventura County.

As families gather to celebrate Christmas, about 1,500 firefighters continue to battle the largest wildfire on record in California.

On Wednesday, as the fire continued to march north and west, Santa Barbara County fire Capt. David Zaniboni was awed by the speed of its growth.

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It's an area that's already bigger than the size of New York City. And the cost is sure to grow, given the inferno was 70% contained over the weekend.

A couple of apartment buildings also burned down. Milder winds and cooler temperatures have helped firefighters the past couple of days.

This year is the worst on record for wildfire devastation in California.

Thousands more firefighters - including from Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Washington state - have been involved in battling other wildfires in the state. Though no forward progress on the fire is expected, fire officials say fuels in the burn area remain "critically dry". Mandatory evacuation orders for the Thomas Fire have been lifted. Damage has topped $10 billion - and that was before the current fires began in Southern California.